Chapter closes with sheriff

There is a new sheriff in town. The interim appointment of John Scott, the current undersheriff in Orange County, to lead the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, is a great opportunity to begin much-needed changes after many years of problems in the agency.

Scott is a veteran of this department and has a good reputation. Therefore, he has some direct knowledge of the police department, which will be helpful to begin shifting direction.

In Scott, the Board of Supervisors made a good choice, seeking to leave behind as soon as possible the administration of Lee Baca. The former sheriff became known for his personal sensitivity in his relationships with minority communities and should get credit for lowering crime rates. However, his administration was plagued by irregularities, from hiring the wrong staff to having deputies who abused and mistreated inmates and their visitors. Eighteen deputies were charged with federal crimes for their actions.

Scott may end up being in charge for up to 10 months if none of the nine declared candidates vying to replace Baca gets more than 50% of the votes in June. That is a very long time in an organization that needs some shaking up, since this is only a “caretaker” position.

The interim sheriff must work on reforms in the department, but also keep an eye on community contacts if he wants to rebuild public trust. He must also send a clear signal that he won’t impose in Los Angeles the policies of the Orange County Sheriff, some of the toughest when it comes to vehicle impounds and close cooperation with immigration authorities. That way, he will quiet down concerns in the immigrant community.

The arrival of Scott closes a 16-year chapter in the Sheriff’s Office, beginning a period of change that should leave the agency on the right track for Baca’s permanent successor.